New Delhi: A GoAir A320neo aircraft headed to Chandigarh from Mumbai on Sunday had to abandon its journey mid-air because of engine vibrations, stoking fresh worries about the Pratt and Whitney (P&W)-made engines mounted on the Airbus planes.
The aircraft, which was carrying 169 passengers, faced “a technical glitch" and “after turnback the aircraft landed safely at Mumbai airport", the budget airline said in a statement. “The aircraft is being inspected and rectified by the GoAir engineering team."
GoAir said it is making alternative flight arrangements for the affected passengers.
Meanwhile, Arun Kumar, head of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said the regulator will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.
He said DGCA will be intensifying checks on such P&W engines as the number of A320neo aircraft engines with potential safety problems has risen to more than 130 in India.
India’s civil aviation minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, had earlier put the figure at 110.
“These are preventive checks. If we don’t do these, there may be problems mid-air," he said. The regulator is yet to decide whether some aircraft would need to be grounded.
IndiGo, India’s largest carrier with more than half of the domestic air traffic market share, also flies A320neo planes fitted with P&W engines.
Kumar said DGCA would decide in mid-January whether to grant IndiGo more time—beyond the current 31 January deadline—before the regulator starts ordering some A320neo planes to be grounded. The affected planes have continued to fly, while their repair work is being done since they have two engines.
“The not-so-good news is that it will take more time than envisaged owing to logistical challenges," Kumar said. “About the exact extension of time, we will be able to make a proper assessment sometime in the middle of January after taking a holistic view."
The increased scrutiny will put more pressure on IndiGo, which has been prohibited from adding new routes or flights until it replaces all faulty engines. That could also add to pressure on P&W, a unit of United Technologies Corp., to direct more engines to IndiGo, the largest customer for Airbus’s best-selling A320neo series, at a time when demand for Airbus jets has soared. A rival model made by Boeing Co. has been grounded since March following two crashes that killed hundreds of people.
Kumar said IndiGo has fully adopted a revised take-off method that doesn’t apply full thrust on the engines, a practice the regulator had linked to repeated in-flight turbine failures.
IndiGo didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Pratt and Whitney is working in coordination with our airline customers to incorporate upgrades improving the durability of the low pressure turbine in the PW1100G-JM fleet to address a known issue," said a company spokesman.
“We are committed to supporting our customers to ensure minimal disruption during the fleet retrofit. Since entering service in 2016, GTF engines have achieved more than 4 million flight hours of passenger service, while providing significant fuel efficiency, noise and emissions benefits," the spokesman said in response to questions on engine replacement plans.
Airbus said it was “working closely with Pratt and Whitney and the DGCA to maintain the schedule for engine deliveries".
Leroy Leo contributed to this story.